Tag Archives: music

Learning Through Song – by Tayler Boelk. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Learning Through Song – by Tayler Boelk. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


[Source of image, see: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald,_1971,_3_of_4_(restored).jpg]

Everything I learned about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a famous Great Lakes shipwreck, I learned through song. I can tell you how many tons of iron ore was on the ship—about 26,000. I can tell you where they were coming from—Wisconsin,- and where they were going—Cleveland. I can even tell you how many people died when it sank to the bottom of Lake Superior—29.

Song has been, and continues to be, a great method of learning. An excellent example of this is the children’s song “The ABC’s.” In the United States, this is how children learn the basic units of communication. Through song, they learn the letters used to build words for both speaking and writing. Language is an interactive and social process, and music is a natural way for children to experience this process in a pleasurable way. As schooling continues, learning through song remains present. School House Rock and Animaniacs were popular educational television shows that taught the continents, presidents, states and their capitals, parts of speech, and even more universal things such as countries of the world. Some songs are used to encourage cooperation and problem solving. The “Clean-Up Song,” for instance, was a popular one from kindergarten, teaching children that the best way to get work done quickly is to work together. While these are dominantly western examples, the great thing about music is that it spans across the globe.

Music exists in every culture. It varies in style, language, and message, but it is one of the most powerful ways of understanding the differences and similarities of others. It is universal in that music always speaks to the human experience. Even when we listen to music in languages we cannot understand, we receive a lasting impression of the challenges, sorrows, and joys of that culture. It is this emotional experience that really connects a listener with the music. This connection breaks language barriers allowing us to learn about other cultures and from others’ experiences. In addition, the rhythm and patterns of song can help us learn language easier. In a choral setting, I have much experience singing in foreign languages. Most of the learning was done through the active singing of the song. Sure, we learn things via lecture or reading but by simultaneously reading lyrics, hearing them, and actively singing them, we are processing the information in several ways rather than one at a time.

This applies to music in familiar languages by allowing us to quickly memorize the information through use of familiar patterns. You don’t have to be a music prodigy to recognize rhyming schemes or the difference between the chorus and verse. In our everyday experiences of listening to music on the radio, in movies, commercial jingles, or music classes we become familiar with these patterns. Singers and song writers take advantage of these patterns to tell stories or teach lessons. As I mentioned before, everything I know about the Edmund Fitzgerald I learned through song. Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is arguably the source of the ships fame. His song follows many traditional methods of storytelling including foreshadowing, similes, and contains a beginning, middle, and end. While this story could easily be told verbally, by putting it to song and adding additional literary techniques, such as rhyming and alliteration, it becomes instantly more memorable.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a famous German writer, once stated that music is “the language of the heart.” While this is beautiful, I would argue that music is the language of the world. It brings people together from across the globe and helps them understand and enjoy each other’s culture.

Tayler Boelk serves as assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Tayler Boelk

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Fifteen, Piazza Navona, Italy, Music – a Universal Language

The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Fifteen, Piazza Navona, Italy, Music – a Universal Language

Kendra Souther Update 1: Music – A Universal Language

Music is a language that anyone can understand. As a person who has always been involved in the arts, theater and choir specifically, the previous is a phrase that I’ve heard constantly but never fully understood until recently. This past May I had the opportunity to tour Italy with my college choir. At first I was apprehensive about visiting a country where English was not the first language. This wasn’t due to ignorance of another country that didn’t speak English but because of the repertoire my choir would be performing was all in English and I wasn’t sure if those attending our concerts would be able to appreciate our singing because they didn’t understand. I quickly realized that this was not the case.


At our first concert, the setting was a beautiful church on the Piazza Navona. The crowd was full of Italians who seemed eager to hear us sing. If I had to put an estimate as to how many gathered in attendance I would say that there were close to 150 people. Throughout the concert the audience’s faces were engaged as the choir told a story through music. Although I am sure that many had no idea what we were saying, no one person reflected this. After our set we received a standing ovation and were hailed with praises as we left. This set the stage for the rest of the tour. Throughout the other towns we went to, the appreciation of our music continued. There were many times I found myself tearing up while singing from the atmosphere that was created with the choir and the engagement of the audience.

Music is a language that anyone can understand. I have fully lived and seen this. I left Italy with a new appreciation for the arts and the impact that it can have on humanity. No matter what language one speaks, music is a force that moves past all barriers. It is experiences like the ones I had in Italy that give me hope for a better tomorrow.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:


This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang